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A Paris Beauty Secret: An Afternoon’s Delight

Getting in Tip Top Shape on Planet Bling Photographs by Theadora Brack (Vintage Images: T. Brack's archives)

Getting in Tip Top Shape on Planet Bling Photographs by Theadora Brack (Vintage Images: T. Brack’s archives)

Distractions abound! La Vie en Rose! (Elle Magazine, 1951)

By Theadora Brack

Keeping on our tipsy toes, we’ve been spring cleaning here on Planet Bling like there’s no tomorrow. Next week we’ll be back on track with a fresh batch of tales about the City of Light. Fancy a swing by the Opéra Garnier? Step-by-step, I’m with you. For kicks, I’ll reveal a slew of newly-acquired tidbits about the historical palace, along with Sun King’s Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris and Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Black Swans, this pas de deux is for you!

Getting prepared: In the meantime, here’s a classic French cure for fatigued feet. Like delicious gossip, it’s a recipe worth repeating again and again. Let’s stop, beautify, and smell the roses with a green clay masque, shall we? Grab a pencil, wings, and your gauzy tutu, my fellow Sylphides. Here’s our shopping list. La vie en rose!

Ingredients
Half cup French green clay powder
Half cup water
2 drop rose or lavender oil
3 drops olive oil

In the Wings

Once these have been rounded up, crank up the ice machine and Claude Debussy’s bewitching L’après-midi d’un faune. Choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, the ballet made its Paris debut in May 1912. According to writer Joy Melville, Auguste Rodin wrote, “When the curtain rises to reveal Nijinsky reclining on the ground, one knee raised, the pipe at his lips, you would think him a statue; and nothing could be more striking than the impulse with which, at the climax, he lies face down on the secreted veil, kissing it and hugging it with passionate abandon.”

Ice cube, anyone? Next, trap a book and pour a tall glass of Pastis. Set aside. NOW proceed with the recipe. Blend ingredients and apply to feet. Cover with a plastic bag and wait 30 minutes. Elevate toes. Sip. Inhale. Listen to Debussy. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Chill thoroughly. Just chill it all, I say.

La Fée Verte: French green clay is quarried in the south of France. The color comes from iron oxides and decomposed (fossil) plants, mostly kelp, seaweed and algae, and is considered a mightily powerful external detoxifier. Pharmacies often carry the powder. I’ve spotted it online, too. Your friends and arch enemies will be green with envy. Meanwhile, you’ll be green with smug joy.

When Nijinsky was asked the secret to his airy, floating leaps, he would say only, “You have just to go up and then pause a little up there.” Happy Spring Fling!

Nijinsky, L'après-midi d'un faune, 1912 (Photograp: Bettmann/Corbis Archives)

Nijinsky, L’après-midi d’un faune, 1912 (Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis Archives)

Nijinsky at the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris

Petrushka, Elliott & Fry, 1911

Nijinsky, Petrushka, Elliott & Fry, 1911

I store my Fée Verte in a jelly jar (Green Clay + Rose Oil = Bliss)

Nijinsky, Le Spectre de la Rose, 1911

Nijinsky, Le Spectre de la Rose, Hoppe, 1911

BRACK Spring Cleaning 3

BRACK Spring Cleaning 90

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92 thoughts on “A Paris Beauty Secret: An Afternoon’s Delight

    • Merci, Violet! The stripes caught my eye, of course. I couldn’t resist. I’ve been wearing Keds sneakers forever. And they last forever. I also have a pair in lime green. And shocking pink! T.

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  1. Oh bliss is this! She tossed the red satin slippers with the incredible high heels and red ankle ribbons into the corner. What a night at the opera – Scheherazade and Nijinsky dancing! Carefully she set the needle down and the Victrola spun magic into the air. Debussy and a reviving glass of Patis. She patted the lavender scented masque on to her tired toes and watched the night sky turn pink.

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    • What a gorgeous passage, Virginia! I especially love the line: “Carefully she set the needle down and the Victrola spun magic into the air.” I’ve missed your writing! Say, I have a story for you. I think you’ll appreciate this. Confession: I was also away at an artist retreat. There, I got to live out one of my dreams: Dancing the Can Can! Channeling my inner Jane Avril, I wore petticoats, a massive headpiece made of tissue roses, and skeletal makeup (similar to the costume design in Nijinsky’s Till Eulenspiegel. It was a wonderful night. A perfect night! At first, I hesitated. But then I thought, “What would Virginia do?” And so I danced! T.

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  2. Well, time to polish up my tiara because Theadora is back in town! Everyone has missed you because life was just too dull without your chic Parisian wit and charm!

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    • YES. YES. YES. Polish up the tiara! Soon we’ll be trekking to the Opéra Garnier. I love this place. Have you been there? Karen, you’d love the wide variety of marble. The colliding patterns woo. It’s incredible. And it’s a great way to spend a rainy afternoon. Tours are available. I explored the palace on my own. What an adventure! T. (Enjoy the weekend!)

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  3. Ahhh, you’ve been missed! I’m pausing a moment at the height of my jump of enthusiasm to wiggle my tipsy toes (well, they’re not tipsy yet, but maybe later) in excitement that you’re back. My feet feel better already.

    janet

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    • The green clay beauty recipe works, Janet! I add both lavender and rose oil to the mix. Sometimes lemon! A dancer friend passed on the recipe to me. During the springtime and summer months, I apply it to my feet on a weekly basis. It’s messy. I recommend conducting the beauty treatment outdoors. And if you have long nails, do wear gloves. T. (Enjoy the weekend! Say, is the food market back in full or almost-full swing yet? I wonder if they carry essential oils. The recipe is worth a shot.)

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      • Unfortunately no market yet where we now live, T. The market in Cleveland is, as always, going full swing but the Naperville market doesn’t start until June, I think. 😦

        Enjoy your weekend, too.

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      • June is just around the corner! Time is flying. Almost too quickly! T. (In the meantime, enjoy the marvelous month of May!)

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      • Just got our tickets for our July trip to France, so I’m excited. We’ll see the Amsterdam airport (twice) and the Basle airport, too. 🙂 Dijon mustard, wine and family time. Good stuff. Enjoy your day, T.

        janet

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      • Wish we were going to be in Paris, but Dijon and the surrounding area will be great, too. Plenty of wine there. 🙂 And mustard, of course. My s-i-l is laying in a supply of champagne, so what more could we want? I’ll look forward to the list.

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      • Mustard and wine, of course! My favorite things in life. Again, Bon Voyage! I’m already looking forward to your photographs. T.

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    • Ah, MERCI. Do you have any summertime book recommendations? Perfect for green clay masks and chillaxing? T. (While researching ballet, I’ve ordered about a dozen books. Guilty. But I’ll cherish them forever. In the name of research, is what I always say at the cash register! A favorite: You’d love the V&A’s “Diaghileve and the Ballets Russes” catalog. Full of photographs and sketches, it’s a stunner. And so was the exhibition!)

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  4. I love your blog and have missed seeing it pop up. Those shoes our fabulous and the mask, though maybe a bit too work for me sounds fantastic.

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    • Thanks, Julia! Keds. Keds. Keds. They last forever, eh? Are you a fan? T. (The mask is a win-grin. In fact, I’m wearing another green mask now. Primping the tipsy toes for the weekend!)

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    • Merci! I’ll include more tidbits on my favorite dancer, Nijinsky. Heavenly, indeed! The costumes were also incredible. I’m now off for more research. Perhaps I’ll sign up for a ballet class! T.

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    • Thanks, Kim! Have you seen a performance there? Years ago, I got to see l’après-midi d’un faune in box seats. They were pricey but worth every cent. Splurge-worthy! T.

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      • I think it was Giselle I saw – also have seen a ballet at the Opera Bastille – no comparison for setting, of course!

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      • AH, Giselle. Lucky you! What a tale, penned by Théophile Gautier. I’ve been trying to track down Victor Hugo’s poem “Fantômes” in Les Orientales. According to my growing pile of dance books, it inspired Gautier. I’ll dig up a few lines. T.

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    • I know. I know. It’s a beauty. Whenever I’m blue, I trek on over to the Cimetière de Montmartre, and spend time with the dancers. Here you’ll find: Terpsichorean Louise Weber, Dalida, The Vestris Family, Emma Livry, and Fanny Cerrito, along with Marie Taglioni’s shrine and Edgar Degas. It’s the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning after a run. Rain or shine. T.

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  5. “You only have to go up and pause a little bit there” that is something your blog does for us when we read you words of whimsy and the delights of life. We have begun our journey to Virginia od the Ruby Slippers and Magical Bicycle.

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    • Thank you, Mary! It really, really works. After adding the oils to the mix, the clay powder turns from a pale green to a wonderful, rich hunter green shade. Delicious. And cool to fingertips and toes, too. Do you have any treasured secret formulas? T.

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      • Okay so here goes . . . would you like smoother arms and legs? What woman wouldn’t, I ask? Well in Texas the sun can really damage and dry out your skin, making it very flakey. Take oil (olive or vegetable) and mix it with granulated sugar making a bit of paste. This paste will act as a scrubber as you spread it – scrubbing as you go along on your skin (legs and arms). You do this once a week and you’ll have silky smooth skin! My one and only secret (for today)!

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      • AH, Mary! I tried the olive oil-sugar treatment early this morning after a run. It works. It works. My hands and arms are now silky smooth. Great smell, too. I’m definitely adding this one to my weekly beauty repertoire. My elbows also thank you! T.

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  6. It’s soooo good to come back to Paris! Have missed the magical trips through Yesterday, stopping in Today, and buying tickets for Tomorrow…with the fabulously foot-clad guide ever!

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    • Hello there, Rhonda! It’s great to “see” you. Oh, you’ll enjoy the upcoming jaunt to the Opéra Garnier. I’m still in research mode. My favorite phase! AH, the sneakers are irresistible and comfortable, to boot. Enjoy the week! T.

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    • Merci! So you got to visit the Opéra Garnier? Did you take a tour or fly solo? Or you there for a live performance? It’s a wonderful place. Magical, really. It had cameos in “Funny Face” and Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” While touring , did you make any interesting discoveries? Bump into any spirits?! T.

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      • Ha ha! No spirits… Just found it awe inspiring from the gold and mirrors to the feathery swan costumes. My daughter is an actress and she sat for a long time in the box just gazing at the stage and drinking in the theatrical vibes! X

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      • AH, what a nice memory. That’s exactly what I did. I got to explore the place during a thunderstorm. There was nary a soul around. Theatrical vibes abound! T. (If only the box seats and galleries could talk!)

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  7. T!!! Long time, friend. Those shoes have sent me over the moon with envy…green French clay powder envy. SURELY to goodness I will get to France next year; I love it so, but Heaven Help Me, I so have become smitten with Istanbul. I’ve been here 9 months! Can you believe it? Why don’t you come over here an visit? 🙂

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    • Bonjour, Anita! YES. As always, thanks for your enthusiasm. Positive energy is always contagious. Istanbul! Has the teaching year ended? Will you teach summer school or take a break? Will you return to Istanbul? Or head a new destination? Questions! Questions! So exciting. I’ve really enjoyed following your journey. Keep us posted! T.

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      • Teaching year ends mid June. My precious, 23 yr old daughter is coming over for the first time on last day of my school. She is completely bonkers excited to come over and let me show her around this Byzantine Ottoman Empire! I’m spending a month back in the States but I will come back to the sultan’s harem at end of July. New school year starts mid Aug and thus will begin my second year of international teaching here on the Bosphorus.

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      • What very exciting news, Anita! Enjoy the visit with your daughter, the break, and the preparation for the new school year. It’s all about the process. BRAVO. T.

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  8. Love your shoes, T! I had no idea Nijinsky was so brawny – always imagined he’d be slender and androgynous. He’s a good shape – there should be more dancers like that. Your recipe for success is a scream!

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    • Thanks, Richard! YES. I agree. Nijinsky was in great shape. His leg muscles are incredible looking. I’m in awe. I’ve included a few more shots. Last summer I got to see his costumes at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. (“Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced with Music”). They’re so lovely. Repeating myself: I wept. I wept. I wept. T. (Have a fabulous week!)

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    • Toni, Thanks for the link and kind words! YES. Stéphane Mallarmés sensuous L’apres-midi d’un faune inspired Debussy. Written in 1876, it’s a true beauty. Oh, la la. Sigh! T. (He also inspired Man Ray. I’ll dig up the name of film.)

      No, but the soul
      Void of words, and this heavy body,
      Succumb to noon’s proud silence slowly:
      With no more ado, forgetting blasphemy, I
      Must sleep, lying on the thirsty sand, and as I
      Love, open my mouth to wine’s true constellation!
      Farewell to you, both: I go to see the shadow you have become.

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  9. Wonderful as always, I love the red and white shoes at the top of the blog, for some reason, even though all the other pictures are fascinating. Not too long and my family and I will be in Paris. It’s such a beautiful city!

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    • Welcome back T – just in time for my trip to Paris – we are arriving on Thursday and by the time we leave, I will have walked so much, I am sure I will need some of that magic foot clay powder! And maybe some nice new shoes ……

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      • Tick. Tick. Tick. Exciting! I’m also looking forward to your reports on the City of Light. Don’t forget the camera. Feel free to ask questions. If you’re staying in a hotel, ask for an early check-in time. Sometimes it’s possible. It never hurts to ask. Tell them you’re a writer and a photographer. But perhaps you’ve worked this out already. Bon Voyage! T.

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    • Thanks, Karen! Have you started packing? Don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes. Especially in Montmartre with its gorgeous but uneven cobblestones. I’m looking forward to your reports from the field. I’d add the Opéra Garnier to your list, if time permits, of course. The fee is worth every cent. I was able to explore practically the entire palace on my own—including the fabulous gift shop WITH A VIEW! T.

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    • Thanks, Thom! Stay tuned for more tidbits about Nijinsky. Last summer I got to see his costumes at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Stunners, I tell you. I wept. Incredible works of art! T. (Enjoy the week!)

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  10. Welcome back Theadora! Just got to the end of the comments after the blog and trying to work out what your special essence is. It seems to wash over into your commenters too! Racy, speedy, chatty, chic, tongue-in-cheek (at times), amusing, light, sweet, informative, friendly, whisper in the ear. Something really special. Is there one word for all that (and the bits left out)? Entertaining just doesn’t cut it. I think the word is “Theadora”!

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    • Goodness. Gracious. I’m speechless. How to thank you for such swell words! You’ve made my day. My week? Heck, no. My month! Perhaps I will print your thoughtful message and pin it to the refrigerator. And then whenever I’m blue or experiencing the mean reds, I will read it out loud to the cats. Thank you. Your enthusiasm is always contagious. Repeating myself, I know. Merci!! T. (The feeling is mutual. Your art always inspires me.)

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    • Thank you, Rhonda! Stay tuned for more classic French beauty treatments. I just tried Mary’s olive oil and sugar beauty treatment. My hands and arms are thanking me. A perfect spring and summertime treat. Enjoy the weekend! T.

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    • Dear Mélanie, Thanks for the link! Of course, I’m a big time fan of the “Amelie” film. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful soundtrack. It’s on my running iPod. I listen to it every day. Every day! ~T. (Merci!)

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  11. What a useful post! As a fan of walking in Paris but a victim of two flat feet, this is perfect. As a bonus, I already have a lot of argile on hand as my ex-wife keeps me stocked up to help the kids with everything from zits to digestive trouble!

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